On Wednesday, 1 February 2023, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) delivered this constituency statement on behalf of KEI, Health Action International, Oxfam, Public Services International, and the World Council of Churches on the following topic: “Universal Health Coverage – Reorienting health systems to primary health care as a resilient foundation for universal health coverage and preparations for a high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on universal health coverage”.
In preparation for the high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Universal Health Coverage, we call upon the WHO and its members to include measures to make access to new medical technologies more equal, including but not limited to new medicines, vaccines, diagnostic tests, and emerging cell and gene-based therapies.
Society values innovation and investments in R&D for advances in biomedical technologies, but also access. It is important to use investment incentives that do not rely on granting exclusionary monopolies and high prices that create inequality and undermine prevention.
We recognize that transformative changes in the business models for biomedical innovation are daunting, and may seem impossible in the near term. But governments can progressively implement delinkage right now, by establishing and progressively expanding non-price incentives for biomedical innovation, such as market entry rewards, while also progressively lowering prices and making access more equal. Access will always be constrained and unequal without the delinkage of R&D costs from the prices of drugs, vaccines and other health technologies.
The great disparities in access to medicines for cancer and even greater disparities in access to new cell and gene-based therapies cannot be overcome with the current reliance on monopoly-based incentives.
With respect to the decision on strengthening diagnostics capacity, we note that earlier versions of the text proposed a role for the WHO secretariat to “undertake a study on anti-competitive practices…that hinder or create barriers to the universal and equitable access to diagnostic capacities.” We regret that this language did not meet with consensus.
If WHO member states are serious about achieving UHC, they would have retained references in the resolution directed at countries “to take policy measures to facilitate, without restrictions, unhindered and equitable access to diagnostics technologies and products.” For everyone, everywhere.
Finally, we reiterate that prevention is better than cure, and we call upon the WHO to urge the UNGA to prioritize health promotion in all sectors, as a sure way of achieving UHC.